To help gain customer support for the antique Ford parts business that he inherited from his father, Ernest Robert Hemmings started 60 years ago with a hand-typed mimeographed newsletter that he distributed to about 500 people who paid subscriptions priced at 50 cents per year.
He considered his publication to be a magazine and he even drew a logo that read: “Hemmings Motor News.” His newsletter catered to the specific interests of collectors of obsolete Fords, primarily the Model T and Model A.
Just a few years later, Hemmings Motor News had become a general-interest old-car forum and advertising vehicle for classic-car buyers and sellers, and Ernie Hemmings had transitioned into the role of chief editor and writer.
The founder of what eventually became known as “the bible” of the collector-car hobby, Hemmings died Thursday at the age of 89 in his hometown of Quincy, Illinois.
Hemmings ran his publishing enterprise through the 1960s, when the subscriptions soared to 40,000 and the page count grew with ads and features, many of them written by Hemmings. By the end of the decade, Hemmings realized that it had become too much for one man to handle and he sold Hemmings Motor News in 1969 to Terry Ehrich, a classic-car enthusiast in Bennington, Vermont. Ehrich operated the magazine until his death in 2002.
Hemmings Motor News and its three associated titles – Hemmings Classic Car, Hemmings Muscle Machines and Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car – with a combined readership of more than a half-million, are based in Bennington though now are owned and published by American City Business Journals of Charlotte, North Carolina.